Wyoming cowboy wins big in Omaha
October 16, 2013
Self-doubt has never been a big problem for J.R. Vezain. He tends to think big and make lofty goals. He's 20 with a world of talent, so he doesn't see any reason to set limits. On Sept. 27, he made believers of the 6,374 fans in the CenturyLink Center.
The Cowley, WY, cowboy with the wild shock of red hair, won the bareback riding in the first round of the Justin Boots Championships with an 87-point ride on Southwick Rocky Mountain Rodeo's Hard Times, beating all the sport's biggest names.
"This is a huge boost in confidence," Vezain said. "These are the big dogs, the guys I've looked up to since I was a little kid. Riding with them, competing with them, hanging out with them in the locker-room is all really cool.
"But winning here is huge, just huge. It tells you that you can compete with the best. I mean Will Lowe won the world title at 19 (he was 20 actually) and has been great for a decade. Everybody wants to ride as consistently as Bobby Mote. And Kaycee Field is one of the greatest bareback riders ever to walk the earth. You watch what all of them do and try to learn."
Vezain's goals, in this his second full season on the ProRodeo trail, were to finish the regular season in the top five in the world standings and to have more than $100,000 in earnings going to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Dec. 6-15.
As of today he is fifth with $104,546. And he has a new goal.
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"I'm looking at winning the world championship, you betcha," Vezain said. "I can tell you when the turning point was, exactly. It was when I won in Cody (WY) back in July. The cutoff for making the Wrangler NFR is usually about $60,000 and the win in Cody bumped me over that mark.
"My dad (Justin) said, 'You're gonna do it.' Since then I've been trying. The big goal is to get there and win it, so I'm going to shoot for the stars, and if you miss it, shoot again. The whole goal is to break every record ever set, and so that's what we'll try. God willing, we'll do it, but I might as well go try."
On Sept. 27, it was a marriage of a Wyoming cowboy and a Wyoming horse that got the job done, what Vezain described as "an older horse that still behaves like a colt," matched with the field's youngest bareback rider who behaves like a veteran.
The other young gun who made an impression on the first night of this $637,188 rodeo was team roping heeler Paul Eaves, who paired with Dustin Bird, 30, to capture the first-place check with a time of 5.1 seconds.
They joined forces in late May and have been moving steadily up the standings ever since, winning major titles in St. Paul, OR, and Innisfail, AB.
"I was probably somewhere between 25 and 30 in the world when we started," Bird said.
"Oh, I was lower than that… somewhere in the 30s," Eaves said. "It is hard to say why we have done so well together right from the start. It's started to hit home a little bit… and winning a round here is a great accomplishment."
J.W. Harris, a three-time world champion who is coming off a big win in the Justin Boots Playoffs in Puyallup, WA, two weeks ago, had an 86-point ride on Dakota Rodeo's My Space to tie Trevor Kastner for the first-round win in the bull riding.
"It's just going in there and taking care of your business," Harris said. "You don't worry too much about what's in front of or behind you (in the standings). What you draw helps, too, sometimes. It's easy to ride these bulls – the turn-back spinners, so if you do those all year, then you'll be there every time. It played into my strength. If they run they're harder to ride."
It was otherwise a night dominated by the veterans, the 30-something crowd.
Five-time tie-down roping World Champion Cody Ohl, 38, and Clint Robinson, 30, tied for the first round title with runs of 7.3 seconds apiece.
Three-time steer wrestling World Champion Luke Branquinho, 32, and Casey Martin, 31, split the first-place check after each stopped the clock in 3.9 seconds.
Chad Ferley, 32, who won the 2006 gold buckle, held off twin brothers Jesse and Jake Wright with his 86-points on JS Rodeo's Bald Lie.
The barrel racing win went to Cheyenne Frontier Days champion Mary Walker, 53, in a time of 13.68 seconds. F